Sunday, January 31, 2016

Knights of Babylon Mardi Gras Floats

At Mystery Playground, we love New Orleans and Mardi Gras. Today we have a preview of some of the floats for the Knights of Babylon parade, direct from the Babylon float den. 

The Knights of Babylon Mardi Gras parade rolls this Thursday night (5:30 pm, Feb 4th) in New Orleans. It's so fun to see the floats up close.

You can see the entire Mardi Gras parade schedule here

To see Babylon float previews from previous years, click here and here

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Agatha Christie's Poirot & Miss Marple Dolls

Check out these meticulously made Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple dolls made out of minikin felt. These dolls are made to order and as you can see there are plenty of choices. The detailed face in the doll above is more costly running at $140 and the dolls with just the mustache at $49. They are little wool cells of art. 

Friday, January 29, 2016

The Wise Women, A Welsh Wedding and the Dewi Sant

One of our favorite and most prolific Drinks with Reads authors, Cathy Ace, is back today pairing her new book, The Case of the Missing Morris Dancer with the perfect drink. This novel is the second of the WISE Enquiries Agency Mysteries and will be released on February 1st 2016. You can see all of Cathy Ace's other Drinks with Reads posts here.

In THE CASE OF THE MISSING MORRIS DANCER, the four women of the WISE Enquiries Agency try to work out why Aubrey Morris, a key player in the Morris Dancing troupe that’s supposed to lead the soon-to-be-married Duke of Chellingworth and his new Duchess from the church to their country seat, has disappeared. The clock is ticking, as, without the Morris dancers, local tradition states the fertility of the marriage will not fare well – and Henry, eighteenth Duke of Chellingworth, needs an heir. 

Carol Hill – a happily pregnant Welsh computer whizz, Christine Wilson-Smythe – the young and beautiful daughter of an Irish viscount, Mavis MacDonald – a retired Scottish army nurse who doesn’t suffer fools at all, and Annie Parker – a true Cockney born of St. Lucian parents with a mouth as wide the Thames, plus their honorary additional member Althea Twyst – the dowager duchess whose presumed dottiness brought them to the Welsh countryside where they have made their home, work together as an effective team of softly-boiled PIs intent upon saving the day.

When asked what the Welsh drink, the usual answer is “anything”. As a Welsh woman, I can attest to this being the truth! Unlike the Irish, the Scots, or the English, it’s true that the Welsh don’t produce, and aren’t known for favoring, one particular type of alcoholic beverage other than a range of beers, from pale to stout, with dark mild being almost unique to Wales. 

For those with a desire to taste a drink that might well be served at the wedding of a Welsh Duke being held on Saint David’s Day (March 1st) I therefore offer the Dewi Sant (that’s Saint David, in Welsh) which is one of three cocktails created by Armand Wysocki, Bar Manager at Donovan Bar, Browns Hotel in London as part of the St David's Day celebratory menu there, using Penderyn Sherrywood single malt whisky from Wales’s only distillery. If you can’t get Penderyn whisky then you have no choice but to “go international” and either use a Scottish or English single malt whisky, or an Irish single malt whiskey…note that the Irish have an extra “e”. Whichever of the four Home Nations you select as your source, try to choose a single malt that’s been kissed by a sherry cask. 

A drink fit for a duke, a duchess, a dowager and the WISE Women. Iechyd da! (Cheers, in Welsh, pronounced yeah-key dah.)

50ml Penderyn Sherrywood single malt whisky
25ml Sweet Vermouth
Orange bitters
Dash of sugars/simple syrup 

The Method: Put all ingredients into a martini mixing-glass with ice and stir well.  Strain into a glass. Add garnish of an orange slice or lemon slice (I prefer orange). 

(To make your own sugars/simple syrup: use two parts water to one part sugar. Bring the water to a boil. Dissolve the sugar into the boiling water, stirring constantly. Once the sugar is dissolved completely, remove the pan from the heat. Note: Do not allow the syrup to boil for too long or the syrup will be too thick once it cools. Allow to cool completely and thicken, then bottle.)


Born and raised in Swansea, South Wales, Cathy Ace is the author of the Bony Blithe Award-winning Cait Morgan Mysteries. Her new series is The WISE Enquiries Agency Mysteries – featuring four female professional investigators, one of whom is Welsh, one Irish, one Scottish and one English (hence the acronym). They tackle quirky British cases from their base at a Welsh stately home – the ancient seat of the Twyst family, the Dukes of Chellingworth, set in the rolling countryside of the Wye Valley in Powys, Wales, near the picturesque village of Anwen-by-Wye. Cathy lives in beautiful British Columbia, where her ever-supportive husband, and two chocolate Labradors, make sure she’s able to work full-time as an author and enjoy her other passion – gardening.

Twitter: @AceCathy

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Crafty Thursday: Wine Charms

Kerry Hammond is here on Crafty Thursday to show us how to make wine charms.

This craft is probably one of the easiest you can make, but allows for a maximum amount of creativity because you can use so many different beads and charms.

Wine Charm Rings (Etsy sells these)
Needle nose pliers
Jump Rings

Ok, the wine is optional, but way more fun that way. After all, you’re making charms and will need to try them out on a glass.

Step One:
Using your charms and beads, arrange them on your wine ring any way you like. The jump rings are helpful when a charm sits wrong and needs the ring to change its direction (like my globe).

Step Two: 
Put on wine glass and enjoy.

They make great gifts because you can tailor the designs to fit the person you’re giving them to. If your friend loves to travel, use charms like this Eifel Tower one.

I am also a Steampunk fan, and some of my charms reminded me of Steampunk designs. And notice the book hanging from the scrabble tile.

Once you've mastered these you could try our Scrabble tile wine markers made from real board game pieces or Agatha Christie book cover wine charms

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Wednesday, January 27, 2016

X Files Revival: Did it Deliver?

Mia Gianotti is back today chatting about the first two episodes of the X-Files revival. The show got great ratings this week. 

Greetings, X-File fans! Did you watch the first two installments of the "6-episode special event" which aired on Sunday and Monday nights on Fox?

I sure did, and although it was great to have Agents Mulder and Scully back in action, both episodes had some issues. The first one, "My Struggle", was especially hard to follow at times and seemed a bit rough around the edges. To recap: a conservative pundit and conspiracy theorist named Tad O'Malley (played by Joel McHale) reunites the special agents to help him prove his theories about a future government takeover. Tad introduces them to a woman who claims to have been abducted several repeatedly by aliens and forced to give birth to human/alien hybrid babies (whom the aliens "harvested" and took away from her). 

 Tad also shares knowledge with them of a working spacecraft built from elements found at an alien crash site in 1947 (shown in flashbacks in some of the opening scenes). But as usual in the X-Files universe, things are not exactly as they seem. Mulder realizes that everything he used to believe is a lie: that all the alien abductions he and Scully ever investigated have been orchestrated as a giant "smoke screen" to throw them off track, and that the very existence of the X-Files has been a sham. In his own words: “All those years I was led by my nose down a dark alley to a dead-end, exactly as they’d planned.”

The problem with the first episode is that it had too much ground to cover in just one hour. I think the story would have been better served stretched over 90 minutes or even 2 hours. One hour just wasn't enough time to re-introduce Mulder, Scully, and FBI Assistant Director Skinner (as well as a couple of other old favorites, like Cigarette Smoking Man), give background info on what the X Files was, where it was today, plus introduce a new narrative. 

The second episode ran more smoothly: dubbed “Founder’s Mutation”, it covered Mulder and Scully investigating a mysterious, Department of Defense-funded doctor who is experimenting on children with various degrees of genetic abnormalities. The subject matter brings forth painful memories of the child Mulder and Scully had and gave up for adoption 15 years earlier for his own protection. 

With only 4 more episodes remaining in the miniseries, I'm hopeful  that Mulder and Scully will get to the bottom of the government conspiracy introduced in the premiere. However, from what I hear, the next 3 episodes are "stand alone" stories (like Monday's episode) which means they'll have to wrap up the whole story in the last installment. 

Random thoughts:

* The first episode aired after the NFC Playoffs, during which there was a timer counting down the minutes to the "X-Files New Season Premiere". Might this be a clue that that if ratings are good, more seasons will be in the works?

* For the opening credits, they used the original series credits, which I thought was perfect.

* I have mixed feelings about Joel McHale's performance. I love Joel, but I think he played Tad a little over the top.

* Fun fact: did you notice who played the evil doctor in "Founder's Mutation"? It was Doug Savant, of "Melrose Place" fame.

Classic Mystery Series: John Dunning & The Bookman

Today we're starting a new series on mystery and thriller classics, called Mystery Playground Classic. These are books, book series and TV shows that we love so much that we've read or watched again and again. To become a Mystery Playground Classic requires a high bar. Two or more of the gang in the Mystery Playground blog team has to love, love, love it. We'll be featuring these the last Wednesday of every month, and today we start with John Dunning and the Cliff Janeway novels. But Amy & I call them the Bookman books and Cliff Janeway is The Bookman, so we'll go with that...

Do you know those books that stick with you for years? The cover is torn and taped together but you refuse to give it up and recommend it often? For me the John Dunning series with homicide detective Cliff Janeway fits the description. I can’t remember how I originally came across the series but I just recently found the series in a box and immediately lent them to a friend who was looking for a good mystery. The first book, Booked to Die, is set in Denver.  The series features Detective Janeway, a collector of rare and first editions, who occasionally has questionable detecting methods.  The book kicks off when Janeway is assigned to investigate a murder of a book scout, but his anger gets the best of him and his police career is cut short.

To keep himself busy and pay the rent, Janeway opens a small rare bookshop.  He continues to investigate the original murder, but as new much sought after volumes start to appear, so do the dead bodies. The book contains surprise after surprise and will keep you enthralled to the last page. For book lovers, the fact that the mystery revolves around books is a bonus.  

John Dunning writes with first-hand experience from his experience in the used and rare book trade as well as years as a Denver Post police reporter in the 1970s. This is only the first in a five book series so you are guaranteed to be entertained for some time to come.  

The full series includes:

1) Booked To Die, 1992
2) The Bookman’s Wake, 1995
3) The Bookman’s Promise, 2004
4) Sign of the Book, 2005

5) The Bookwoman’s Last Fling, 2006

Look for our Next Mystery Playground Classic on Feb 24, where we'll delve into the wonderful world of the TV show, JAG.